Friday, March 09, 2007

Photo: Smoke billowing from a fire engulfs a neighbourhood of Baghdad 09 March 2007. The fire erupted during a street battle between unidentified gunmen. Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images (Via IraqSlogger)
Bring 'em on: A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West was killed March 9 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province.
In Country:
A Cape Cod man who dismantled explosives in Iraq for an environmental management, consulting and technical services company was killed on the job Thursday, his sister said. Donald Neil, 44, of Barnstable, Mass., was handling ammunition on a military base outside Baghdad, said his sister, Lisa Couture. The ammunition detonated, and Neil died instantly. The blast also injured two others, she said. Neil, a Berlin, N.H. native, had been working for Tetra Tech Inc., of Pasadena, Calif. It was his second tour in Iraq as a civilian. He had previously served in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years.
10 anonymous bodies had been found in Baghdad today. The bodies were found in Karkh, the western part of Baghdad in the following neighborhoods (4 bodies in Yarmook, 2 bodies in Ghazaliya, 2 bodies in Dora, 1 body in Saidiya and 1 body in Hay Al Jami’aa.
Diyala Prv:
The Baaquba public hospital's forensic medicine department received seven unidentified bodies from several areas in the province of Diala, 57 km northeast of Baghdad, medics said on Friday.
A mortar round landed on a road leading to Karbala, 110 km south of Baghdad, targeting Shiite pilgrims coming on foot from the Iraqi capital to visit the shrine of the third Shiite Imam Hussein, an eyewitness said. The attack occurred in al-Khanafus area, 10 km north of Karbala, and caused no casualties, he added.
Two Iraqi soldiers were shot dead while driving in a car Friday in the oil hub of Kirkuk, a security official said.
A civilian died in a roadside bomb blast in the oil hub of Kirkuk, a security official said.
Unidentified gunmen blew up a communication tower in Ramadi, Anbar province, using explosive charges, a security source said.
Sheikh of al-Mawali tribe in Anbar province was killed by a group of gunmen, local residents in Haditha city, 380 km west of Baghdad, said on Friday. "Unidentified gunmen stormed the house of Sheikh Berm Affan in al-Refaai neighborhood north of Haditha in the early hours on Friday and opened fire against him," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) over the phone, noting that the old man died on the spot. "The attackers fled the scene after the attack," he added.
Ten Iraqi policemen were missing after insurgents attacked a police station
north of Baghdad overnight, killing one policeman and wounding three more. A group of insurgents stormed the police station in Hibhib, in Diyala province, setting fire to vehicles and destroying the building, according to witnesses.
The Republic of Georgia said it is raising the number of its soldiers serving with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq to more than 2,000 from the current 850.
Georgia's ambassador to Washington said one reason for more than doubling the country's commitment to the fight was to send a signal to NATO, which the former Soviet republic is trying to join.
The U.S. commander for northern Iraq has asked for more troops
to clamp down on insurgent attacks and sectarian violence in the volatile province of Diyala, he said on Friday.
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon said he had moved additional forces from his own area into Diyala and requested extra troops from elsewhere in the country from Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the top commander of day-to-day operations in Iraq.
The Islamic State of Iraq announced it would soon release a video on the death of a U.S. Air Force pilot whose F-16 jet crashed Nov. 27 north of Baghdad, according to IntelCenter, which monitors insurgent Web sites.
The pilot, Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, was listed officially as "whereabouts unknown" but then reported by the U.S. military as dead following DNA tests from remains at the scene. IntelCenter said it was unclear what the video would show.
Al-Melaf cites a senior security official that said U.S. troops are in the process of building one of the largest military bases in Baghdad in the middle of Sadr City, the Mahdi Army’s stronghold. The source said that U.S. military officers met with city elders who overwhelmingly approved the U.S. decision, which they said would largely improve security in their district. According to the website, construction of the base will start soon and will employ a large number of the city’s impoverished youth.
Sexual assault of female US soldiers by their male colleagues in Iraq is a widely known problem, reports Salon.com.
"The danger of rape by other soldiers is so widely recognized in Iraq that their officers routinely told them not to go to the latrines or showers without another woman for protection," writes Helen Benedict.
Unwritten codes of loyalty prohibit some woman from reporting abuse that is taking place, says Benedict.
"My team leader offered me up to $250 for a hand job. He would always make sure that we were out alone together at the beginning, and he wouldn't stop pressuring me for sex. If somebody did that to my daughter I'd want to kill the guy. But you can't fit in if you make waves about it. You rat somebody out, you're screwed. You're gonna be a loner until they eventually push you out," one soldier told her.
Another soldier told Benedict she carried a knife with her at all times. "The knife wasn't for the Iraqis," she said. "It was for the guys on my own side."
Excerpts from the article below:
read in full…
Amidst the chaos and violence of US-occupied Iraq, the significance of widespread gender-based violence has been largely overlooked. Yet Iraqi women are enduring unprecedented levels of assault in the public sphere, "honor killings," torture in detention, and other forms of gender-based violence.
In honor of International Women's Day today, MADRE, a global women's human rights organization, has released a new report on the incidence, causes, and legalization of gender-based violence in Iraq since the US-led invasion.
Houzan Mahmoud, representative of the Organisation for Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), said at a panel discussion at the UN launching the report:
"Women are not only being targeted because they are members of the civilian population, women--in particular those who are perceived to pose a challenge to the political aspirations of their attackers--have increasingly been targeted simply because they are women."
The report, Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq, documents the use of gender-based violence by Islamists seeking to establish a theocratic state and makes the case that US policy decisions have empowered radicals at the expense of women's rights.
Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis agree on one thing -- the big winner so far in the bitter sectarian strife in their country is Iran.
"America handed Iraq to Iran on a golden plate," Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni politician, told the Chicago Tribune. "Everything Iran fought for in the Iran-Iraq war, America gave to it when it invaded."
Vali Nasr, an Iranian-born scholar who teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., agrees.
"For Iran, the war in Iraq turned out to be a strategic windfall," he wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs.
In 2001, the Shiite government in Iran was flanked by hostile Sunni regimes -- Saddam Hussein on the west and the Taliban in Afghanistan to the east. The United States removed both.
Now, many Shiite leaders in the Iraqi government are men who spent years as refugees in Iran and Iranian arms are turning up across the border.
Iraqi children are haunted by dreams of bad guys wielding knives or kidnapping relatives. For some, like 13-year-old Zaman, the nightmares become reality. She was abducted, beaten and threatened with rape.
"Zaman suffers from shaking, nervousness, a stutter and sleep disorder," said Haider Abdul-Muhsin, a psychiatrist at Baghdad's Ibn Rushd hospital who treats children suffering the consequences of war, four years after the U.S. invasion.
Abdul-Muhsin said Zaman was abducted in Baghdad last month on her way home from school. Zaman was not at the hospital when Reuters visited, but Abdul-Muhsin said few children he had treated recently had affected him as much.
"An elderly woman asked her to help her carry some plastic bags across the road to find a taxi. While she was taking her bags back from Zaman, she grabbed her and forced her into the taxi. She anesthetized Zaman and tied her up," he said.
The girl was held in a room with 15 other girls for seven hours before being released by police who raided the house.
"They beat her, they told her that they would send her to insurgents as a forced 'bride'," Abdul-Muhsin said.
Four years of war and now sectarian chaos that threatens to tear Iraq apart has had an enormous impact on children.
Car bombs explode every day in Baghdad. Mortar bombs rain down on some neighborhoods. Death squads roam the streets and kidnappings are rampant. Kicking a soccer ball around on the streets is like dicing with death.
There are no figures on the number of children killed in violence since U.S. forces invaded in March 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein -- although the United Nations says 34,500 civilians were killed in violence last year in Iraq alone.
Big car bomb attacks at Baghdad's markets often kill children. But even if they are not physically maimed, much of their pain comes from what they see and hear.
Outside Abdul-Muhsin's office, 9-year-old Ghufran was standing waiting as her father discussed her case.
"I have a headache," she said.
Ghufran saw an explosion and while not hurt in the blast, she has suffered epileptic fits ever since.
"Whenever she sees the scene of an explosion or hears the sound of a blast or sees people dressed in black, she has an epileptic fit," Abdul-Muhsin quoted her father as saying.
read in full…
I had naively believed that by now, even the Shrub-in-Chief would agree to reluctantly scale down our involvement in Iraq as the structure of our military began to crack under the strain. But he's determined to make our troops wait for Godot no matter what the cost:
Despite the strains, some military officials in Iraq say it is unrealistic to expect a troop buildup of several months to create enough of a breathing space for Iraqis to achieve political reconciliation. . . .
The recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq also suggested that the Iraqi Security Forces would not be able to assume the major responsibility for securing Baghdad in the near future. An unclassified version of the report noted that “the Iraqi Security Forces, particularly the Iraqi police, will be hard pressed in the next 12 to 18 months to execute significantly increased security responsibilities, and particularly to operate independently against Shia militias with success.”
So, as things stand, we're going to wind up shattering our armed forces for the sake of a plan that has no practical chance of working. That's how powerful and deeply embedded Dubya's delusion is.
read in full…
What’s going on in Baghdad?
Wasn’t that "surge" and security crackdown supposed to be reducing the violence?
Certainly that was the argument Bush made when he announced his latest new "strategy" of adding 21,500 troops to the occupying force in Iraq. He said that the so-called "surge" was needed to "reduce the cycle of violence," but so far, the violence has only increased, with more bombings, more killings, more Iraqis—both Shias and Sunnis—dying--albeit spread around in the areas outside of the central city--and more American troops being killed.
This is progress?
I guess maybe it is in the Through the Looking Glass world inhabited by the president and by the vice president, who recently declared that the decision by Britain to cut and run from Basra was a sign of "progress" in the Iraq War.
read in full…
The similarities between Iraq and Darfur are remarkable. The estimate of the number of civilians killed over the past three years is roughly similar. The killers are mostly paramilitaries, closely linked to the official military, which is said to be their main source of arms. The victims too are by and large identified as members of groups, rather than targeted as individuals. But the violence in the two places is named differently. In Iraq, it is said to be a cycle of insurgency and counter-insurgency; in Darfur, it is called genocide. Why the difference? Who does the naming? Who is being named? What difference does it make?
The most powerful mobilisation in New York City is in relation to Darfur, not Iraq. One would expect the reverse, for no other reason than that most New Yorkers are American citizens and so should feel directly responsible for the violence in occupied Iraq. But Iraq is a messy place in the American imagination, a place with messy politics. Americans worry about what their government should do in Iraq. Should it withdraw? What would happen if it did? In contrast, there is nothing messy about Darfur. It is a place without history and without politics; simply a site where perpetrators clearly identifiable as 'Arabs’ confront victims clearly identifiable as 'Africans’.
A full-page advertisement has appeared several times a week in the New York Times calling for intervention in Darfur now. It wants the intervening forces to be placed under 'a chain of command allowing necessary and timely military action without approval from distant political or civilian personnel’. That intervention in Darfur should not be subject to 'political or civilian’ considerations and that the intervening forces should have the right to shoot – to kill – without permission from distant places: these are said to be 'humanitarian’ demands. In the same vein, a New Republic editorial on Darfur has called for 'force as a first-resort response’. What makes the situation even more puzzling is that some of those who are calling for an end to intervention in Iraq are demanding an intervention in Darfur; as the slogan goes, 'Out of Iraq and into Darfur.’
What would happen if we thought of Darfur as we do of Iraq, as a place with a history and politics – a messy politics of insurgency and counter-insurgency? Why should an intervention in Darfur not turn out to be a trigger that escalates rather than reduces the level of violence as intervention in Iraq has done? Why might it not create the actual possibility of genocide, not just rhetorically but in reality?
read in full…
Afghan and Iranian border guards fought a gunbattle in western Afghanistan on Friday that left one Afghan and one Iranian dead, an Afghan official said. The guards exchanged fire in the western province of Nimroz after the Iranians had crossed some 100 meters (yards) into Afghan territory.
Who can blame them? We'll probably have to perform a purification ritual on the White House once he's out of there.
Mayan leaders announced that priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate "bad spirits" after US President George W. Bush visits next week.
"That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk in our sacred lands, is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture," Juan Tiney, the director of a national association of indigenous people and peasant farmers, said Thursday.
Tiney said the "spirit guides of the Mayan community" decided it would be necessary to cleanse the sacred site of "bad spirits" after Bush's visit so that their ancestors could rest in peace.
Says a lot about how Bush has changed the world's view of America, doesn't it?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I don't know what it was called, and I don't know where it was. All I know is that we sent away every man -- pretty well every male over five feet tall -- that we found in our house raids, and I never saw one of them return to the neighbourhoods we patrolled regularly." -- Joshua Key, 28, who after serving in Iraq went home on a two-week leave in December 2003 and deserted the army, eventually crossing the Canadian border at Niagara Falls with his family


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